Favorite Childhood Memory
It was a Thursday. I always hated Thursdays. Everyone hates Thursday, I think. My friend Vinay used to hate it. He hated it because his father used to have a night shift on Wednesday, and it meant he had to walk to school every Thursday morning. So yeah, rough morning for Vinay. I had a neighbor Roshni, and she hated Thursdays too. Her family had this weird thing where they eat only once on Thursdays and you can guess, no school lunch for poor Roshni. And trust me, if you would have seen Roshni, she needed all the lunches in the world.
I don’t have any of these silly issues. I had a bigger one. Every Thursday, we had a math school assignment that was due. Now I can do everything in life. No, seriously, I can do everything. You ask me to climb a tree, I can do it. You ask me to track an ant’s nest, I can do it. You ask me to chase a duck in a pond. I can do it. Now some people can do some of those things, but not everything. But I can do them all, but still I can’t figure out this dash dash dash math, you get it. It made no sense to me. Okay so, we had this teacher, Mr. Prem. Oh, I hated that Mr. Prem. Did I tell you I found him eating the confiscated chocolates in the staffroom? Oh yeah, Mr. Prem was like that. Everyone thought he was such a friendly teacher and a kind human, but I knew what Mr. Prem was. He was, mind my language, a fucking bastard. And you know what was weird? He knew I knew this about him. And he despised me for that. He was always looking for excuses to punish me. Like once he gave us a problem to solve, and I saw a bird in the tree outside the window feeding her hatchlings. I wanted to check what does a bird feed to their hatchlings–is it human food or like fruit or something? But it was a worm. Yuck. So anyways, Mr. Prem saw me looking outside, and he asked me what I was doing. So, I told him what I saw and asked him if he was aware of this yucky worm situation. I thought he might know since he was an adult and all that shit, but I don’t know why he got furious. Maybe he didn’t know the answer, so he felt insulted by an 8-year-old. He asked me to go stand outside in the sun, which actually I didn’t mind since I can now figure out where the bird is catching all these worms from. But then he complained to my parents that I was not focusing in class. Now this made my dad furious. He gave me this lecture about how he is working so hard so that I can go to good school. I wanted to tell him that I don’t want to go to school and he should save the money to get him a car or something because he was going to the office every day on his cycle in the sun, but something told me that I shouldn’t tell him this.
Oh, wait, did I tell you about how people around me hated the sun so much? They would always complain about how it’s always so hot. I never got it because I never mind the sun. I actually liked it because no one would come out when it was hot, which means I could be outside climbing trees, tracking ants or chasing ducks. Sorry I got distracted again.
So yeah, that Thursday we had an assignment due, and I had no idea what to do with the problem. Okay, help me here. The problem says–what is the answer if you subtract 5 from 4? Now let’s think about this. I have 4 oranges and someone is asking me to give them 5 oranges. Like how can I? Can you? I don’t know which idiot thought this would make sense and then some idiot thought wow, lets teach this in the school.
Anyways, I went to the school with my blank assignment. I was so scared. I couldn’t tell this to my dad because he would have been furious and asked me to pay more attention to the class. I asked Vinay, but he was like, yeah, it’s easy. Okay, Vinay, that was helpful. Like if I tell you climbing a tree was easy, can you do it? Fucking idiot. I am sorry; I don’t swear this much. It was just one of those mornings. So I am in class with this blank assignment and sweating all over my body. Mr. prem could enter the class anytime. And Voila, there I see an assignment on the floor. It was just lying there, so I picked it up and I couldn’t believe my luck. It had all the answers. Now I don’t consider myself unlucky, but I haven’t been this lucky in life. So, in that moment of fear and excitement, my brain just stopped working and my body went on to autopilot mode. Yeah, I learned this cool word– “autopilot” from my cousin Abhinav. He had this aunt who lived in the US and got him this cool airplane toy that would fly and can be controlled with a remote. Abhinav allowed no one to touch the toy and he would announce every time before flying the airplane that now the plane is going to be in autopilot mode. Even though that idiot was controlling it with the remote.
Anyways, I copied the answer and dropped the assignment on the floor where I found it. Soon I saw her looking for an assignment in the class. Her name was Neha. She recently moved to this school from somewhere I don’t remember. Mr. Prem is right; I should pay more attention to class. So, she was new, and she had no friends like me. Well, actually Vinay is my friend, but I hate him, so he doesn’t count. I never noticed her until today. She came to me and ask me if I saw any assignment and I pointed her in the direction where I dropped the assignment. She said thanks and had this look of relief on her face. That was the first time I noticed her face. Now I wouldn’t say she was not beautiful. She was okay. I mean, I don’t think I liked anyone before or knew what it meant to be liking someone. But seeing her was making me feel different. Like the way I feel when I am at the top of the tree. Or near an ant’s nest. Or in the pond. Alone but secured. Uncomfortable but happy. As you know, I can talk. But at that moment, I felt everything stopped around me and I froze, and I was praying inside to be frozen forever in that moment.
Anyways, Mr. Prem came into the room. Ruining that moment just like he ruins everything in my life. He gave his usual lecture. I focused on my usual things outside window except in between I would keep looking at her. And looking at her made me feel okay being in that classroom. I never felt okay being in that classroom. Like never. 10 mins before the class ends, he started collecting assignments. And the gravity of my actions suddenly hits me. My heart started racing, and I was panicking. What if he asks me how did I get the answers? What if he figured out I cheated? As he was approaching my desk, I started praying. He collected my assignment and noticed I had answered everything. He looked at me and he knew something was up. He looked me in the eyes and asked, Did you cheat?
Now I am a sturdy boy. I don’t cry easily. Like last week, I hit my foot on the door while running behind a cat, but I didn’t cry. But in class I was panicking and scared and I was choking on my words and tears started coming out. But he was relentless and kept pushing me on how I got the answers. My words have left me and I was just sitting there crying when I heard her voice–Sir, we did the assignment together. Mr. Prem turned to Neha and looked at her from top to bottom. She looked like someone who won’t lie, so Mr. Prem gave it up a little before giving me that look which chilled me to the bone and announced,–In the next class I am going to ask you to solve some questions. And then he left.
I was sitting there after the class, still shook up from the experience. Tears were streaming down my face when Neha came and ask me–Hey, are you okay?
I said–yeah; I am fine.
She tells me — You know I don’t like Mr. Prem. He is an idiot.
I liked her even more. I don’t know if I liked her earlier, but whatever I felt for her just felt more inside.
She continued — you know I can teach you this. You can come to my home, and we will go over these things together.
I simply nodded.
And then she took her hand and put it on my chest lightly and asked me to breathe.
I took a deep breath. I don’t know if it was her touch on my body. Or it was the air going inside me. But a thought popped in my head. 5 subtracted from 4 could make sense. And maybe Thursdays were not worse anymore.